Have you loved exploring your neighborhood over the last year but feel like it might be time for a change of scenery—maybe even somewhere a little more wild?
Maybe your answer is yes, BUT you have a lot of questions: Where do you go? Will you have to drive hours to get there? What shoes do you wear? Can you bring your dog? How do you hike with a toddler? Where do you park?
It can be a little intimidating to take that first step onto a new nature trail. You may not know all the rules, you might be afraid of getting lost, you may not even know where to find one.
Haley Cottey and her husband CJ noticed these questions floating around their friend group. And while they were lucky enough to grow up with plenty of outdoor adventures with their families and felt comfortable in wild places, they decided it was time for them to share their love of the natural world with their community IN their community.
And so, ExploreMore was born—connecting you to local trails and helping you feel empowered and equipped to have your own outdoor adventures in the DFW area.
Texas Land Conservancy is excited to be partnering with ExploreMore and their mission to get people outside and exploring the nature in their own towns. TLC’s Oak Cliff Nature Preserve is one of the preserves where you will find some of their Hike, Yoga, and Brew events. That’s right, if you like to have a beer after your outdoor adventure, these events are made for you!
The Story Behind the Mission
We thought it might be fun to introduce the TLC community to ExploreMore with a behind the scenes chat with co-founder Haley Cottey and the story behind their mission.
Haley grew up in the country about an hour outside of Dallas, catching frogs, bugs, and other critters. Her mom instilled in her a love of all living things and encouraged her to play outside every chance she got. And it wasn’t just her mother that inspired her love of nature, “There was a creek in our backyard that I would follow down to my grandma’s house. I would literally go ‘over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house’ and she would teach me how to cook in a campfire, build lean tos and garden.” Haley recalls about her early outdoor experiences.
As she grew up, she remembers having a deep desire to go into the wilderness. “I don’t know where that came from,” she says, “because my family loved the outdoors and camping, but full-on backpacking was not something we did.” Haley went off to college and focused her education on her love for outdoor adventure with a degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism. “I did a 40-day backpacking trip with an organization in Wyoming called Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries and from then on, I was hooked.”
Haley wasn’t the only one who felt drawn to the wilderness. Her husband and co-founder of ExploreMore, CJ joined a 23-day trip with Outward Bound, and when the two adventurers met, they immediately bonded over their shared experiences and passion for the outdoors.
Over the years they would take their friends and families on adventures, but it wasn’t until more recently the idea to turn it into a business emerged. “While CJ and I were brainstorming ways to break into the outdoor industry in Dallas, we were also developing a love for beer and found ourselves visiting local breweries in DFW with friends,” Haley remarks about the days before ExploreMore took shape. Over beers, their friends would say they were interested in hiking but didn’t know where to go. So, while trying to put some of their business ideas into a plan, Haley started hosting some hike and brews with local breweries. “I would guide a hike and then everyone who bought a ticket got a drink token for a local brewery,” she says. This simple idea quickly gained momentum and Haley started adding yoga, meditation, scavenger hunts and mini backcountry skill classes to her list of activities. “So, we pretty much abandoned all the other ideas we had and went with what was already working,” she says about solidifying their final business plan.
ExploreMore has now been running events for the last two years. Haley says one of her goals is to get people outside who may not otherwise go. “If people don’t know where to go or are worried about getting lost, we will guide a trip. If they just want ideas, we have blog posts and fun free Bingo games. If they have questions about backpacking or hiking, we are working on YouTube videos and trainings. If they just want to have other people with them, we will help organize group hikes. I just know that nature is SO important for every part of life and I want to help people truly see and love the nature around them,” she says.
Haley and CJ are also passionate about supporting local and helping people explore their own backyard. “The outdoor community is a beautiful thing, but it can feel like you have to be in the mountains to experience it and that is not true. There is a community here in DFW and we would love to bring it together!”
ExploreMore has hosted several events out at Oak Cliff Nature Preserve and has been donating a portion of their ticket sales to Texas Land Conservancy. ExploreMore Landloper, Jessy Coleman, leads hike, yoga and brew events on the preserve—it starts off at the entrance and after intros, they have an outdoor standing yoga class and then a guided hike, and then everyone gets a drink ticket to Oak Cliff Brewing Co. “I just love seeing a group of people who don’t know each other and probably would not have otherwise met, bond on the trail,” she says, “and then have a beer together.”
Other ExploreMore Events
Check out their website to see all ExploreMore events and activities across DFW. They go to Arbor Hills, Erwin Park, Rowlett Creek Preserve, Trinity Forest and more. They also have plans to host full-day, overnight, and even backpacking trips, so stay tuned!